Composting: Green is the New Black

1 Decide between a personal compost bin or composting with the city.

For those who have a yard or garden, having a personal compost bin has a lot of benefits. Why give all that yummy plant food to the city when it could nourish your plants at home? However, composting can be a little trickier for apartment dwellers. For Boulder residents, curbside compost pickup is completely free of cost, and all you need is a bin.

2 Find your dream compost bin!

The type of compost bin you need will depend on how you plan to compost. If composting through the city, you will just need a small countertop compost container. If starting your own compost pile, look for a bin that is at least 3’ x 3’ x 3’ -if the bin is too small, the compost won’t build up sufficient, “heat,” the temperature necessary for ideal decomposition. Keep in mind that once the compost is ready, you will have to access the bottom-most layer. Some bins come with an “access hatch,” built in, but other containers require one side of the bin to be disassembled.

3 Learn what to compost

There are three main components to every compost bin: green waste, brown waste, and water. Green waste materials contain lots of nitrogen, such as grass clippings, flowers, and fruit and veggie peelings. Brown waste materials contain a lot of carbon, such as dead leaves, shredded paper, and coffee grounds. Composting microbes need equal amounts of nitrogen and carbon in their diet, so it’s best to aim for a 50-50 ratio of green to brown material based on weight, not volume.

4 Learn what you can NOT put in your compost.

Putting pet droppings, fats, and meat products in the compost are typically not recommended since these things attract uninvited critters! However, a few cities now allow meat products and bones into their compost systems (see sidebar for info on your area). Plants that have been treated with herbicides and pesticides are unfortunately better suited for the trash. Caution should also be taken when adding weeds to your pile – if mature, they can end up taking over your compost bin!

5 Create a Kit of Tools

Besides the bin itself, there are a few other supplies you’ll want to have on hand. A pitchfork and a square point shovel will make turning the pile much easier, and keeping a machete on hand can help break apart materials that are too large for the pile. A hose with a spray head will also help your pile stay healthy – materials will compost best when they are damp, but not soaked. Remember, your microbes need to breathe!